tv Tavis Smiley PBS December 16, 2011 2:00pm-2:31pm PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. first up tonight, a conversation with tom brokaw. the author of books like "the greatest generation" is out with a new text about how america can restore its greatness. the book is called "the time of our lives." also, oscar-award winning actor sir ben kingsley is with us. his latest work is called "hugo ." >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy
and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: always pleased to welcome tom brokaw to the program. he is a perennial "new york times" best selling author. his latest book is called "the time of our lives, a conversation about america." a pleasure to have you on the
program. >> always a pleasure to be here. tavis: if the time of our lives will be defined by anything, it will be by the war in iraq or afghanistan. yesterday, president obama gave a talk to the troops in afghanistan talking about the end to the iraq war. how do you think that history will be defined vis-a-vis the war? >> we went to war on a false premise, that there was weapons of mass destruction. even president clinton thought there was weapons of mass destruction. should we have gone carter earlier in afghanistan? we had them in a box. then, we have decided to rearrange iraq and position it to be a different middle east.
this will go beyond our lives, tavis. i do think at this juncture, now that it is coming to an end, domestically, we must remember that we fought the two longest war and our population with only 1% of the population. they were volunteers mostly from working class neighborhoods that paid the greatest sacrifice. nothing was asked from the rest of us. if we ever go to war again, everyone must make a sacrifice as well as in home and in uniform. tavis: this book, "the time of our lives," gets to this central question about our children and our grandchildren are having better lives than we have had or are having. one of the things about the future is a public service. i don't know if you mean signing up to engage militarily.
when you say that we ought to have mandatory public service, what do you mean by that? >> i don't think that we will ever have a mandatory military drafts again for men like me. i had a draft card. i had a kind of funny physical economy. they did not take me. a year later, vietnam heated up and they were taking everyone. the military does not want to return to the draft. they want a highly motivated force. that does not excuse the rest of us from public service. i propose across the book public service academies to train people to serve the needs of broad and at home. we make a public-private partnership. wheat developed the johnson and johnson fellows in medicine, nurse practitioners, medical professionals. the caterpillar operators,
everything from engineers to these big pieces of equipment. you have the john deere fellowship, dealing with emerging nations and continuing in this country to get more productivity out of our farm lands. three years in public service and then two years back in the home office to prove yourself up. this is a win-win for the private sector. they have lived in another part of the world, learned a language, and have learned management skills beyond their years. tavis: i want to talk about the ideas of the future but let me back up to your large question, whether or not our kids or grandkids will have better lives. i cited a report which was called the rasmussen report that found that just slightly a majority of americans think that our best days as a nation are behind us. for a lot of us, that feeling is
palpable. people are concerned about the direction of this country and many believe that our best days are behind us. on a large portion whether the best is in front or behind, what did you hear in your travels? >> i hear that a lot. this is driven a lot by the characteristics and the nature of this economic downturn. we were told in 2009 that the recession was officially over and then as late as this month, 2011, we continued to learn that if greece, spain, or portugal gets a head cold, we are in danger of getting ammonia. these are conditions that no one had to deal with. they keep on coming at us. it is the new and unconventional characteristics of our economy that has unsettled people. i try to turn the answer.
let's not make a quantitative answer, will my kids have a better house or travel more. there is a finite answer to all of that. why don't we have more economic justice? why don't we fix the education system so that everyone is on the same playing field in terms of the skill set that will be required for the modern a -- for the modern economy? how can we learn to listen in our political culture? tavis: let me take a few of those. when you mention education, you cannot talk about "the time of our lives" without talking about the education. what we're getting from the republican candidate is that they want to abolish the department of education. your thoughts about the department of education is the future? >> that is a mistake. you have to have a national standards. this is not perfect now.
it has been changed by example, no child left behind and race to the top. the states decide what works best for you and we will send the money to you. we like to have some overarching rules because you will not go forward as a nation state by state, we will go forward in a unified fashion. because you can get a good education does not mean that you should excuse getting an education in kentucky. ronald reagan came to washington determined to eliminate the department of education and he was not there before too long when many people said that to be a big mistake. we have to have national standards. there are ways of providing federal money to those that don't have as much federal resources as others. at the same time, every state has to determine what is in its best interest and how to educate its children. what encourages me now frankly is on the agenda.
every state is looking at education and what they can do. what discourages me is that some of these dates are in economic difficulty and the first place they're looking is to cut. so much of what may california what it is today is university system. now, it is in the cross hairs. the first thing they're talking about is cutting back on education in the uc system. that is not a way to go forward boldly into the future. tavis: one of the other things that is not being talked about is the issue of poverty, thanks to occupy wall street. i have talked about poverty as much as i could this year on this program. the issue is on the agenda, the problem is that the new port in this country are the former middle class. you take the perennial poor, the new poor, you cannot talk about
"the time of our lives" without talking about poverty. perhaps talking about a eradicating it. >> what i make clear in this issue is that we will not get out of this unless we all work together. that goes to the core of all the anxiety in this country. the middle class has not only lost its way but is slipping back into another economic level. we have more people on food stamps. more children living in cars in the southeast and other places. that is a terrible commentary on a great and what the nation like the united states. that does not mean that you just write a check and handed out. we have tikrit new ways to create economic opportunities. -- we have to create new ways of economic opportunities. most of our economy does not do anything, they just create ways
of turning money. even wall street is saying that you have to get back to making things and create jobs for people that want to be able to use their hands, their legs, their minds, to build this country again. tavis: are we making the wisest uses of the internet and social networking? >> i think it is a mixed bag. what i say to a lot of young people who are teaching their parents how to drive when it comes to the new technology. as transformative as it is, you will not solve global climate change by hitting delete. you will not be able to solve your self a personal responsibility by hitting the escape button. i don't know -- i don't care how many text messages you send to your sweetheart, that will not replace a first kiss. h week is just h week as time goes by. -- a tweet is just a tweet as
time goes by. there's incredible work done on the internet in terms of medicine, academic research, education. this is a hugely important part of the future, we just need to make sure that we advance the best use of it. tavis: you have been one of the most esteemed moderator's of the presidential debates. with regards to the issues, what would you like to see mr. obama and whoever his opponent will be talked about that is not getting any traction at the moment? >> i think what i would like them to talk about is the big economic challenges that are not getting enough attention in the debates or for that matter from the white house. how you rebuild the economic infrastructure of this country,
how we build the jobs of the people in this country. i would like to see these debates go for two hours and have a moderator just to steer. let them go after it a little bit more. tavis: the book is called "the time of our lives" written by tom brokaw. always a pleasure to have you. thank you, sir. >> always good to be with you, my friend. tavis: up next, oscar-winning actor, ben kingsley. stay with us. please welcome ben kingsley to the program. the four time oscar nominee and oscar winner for gandhi is featured in "hugo" directed by martin scorsese. here is a scene from "hugo."
any director and making their for steps. this is an exhilarating, refreshing, and it also democratizes because everyone is working on something new. martin was completely unabashed about discovering this extraordinary device that he was using and i think using it to great skill. this is not an add-on or gratuitous, this is using it as a narrative tool. i think it was refining the cameras and ankles and what was gently floating in and out of 3d focus. you can adjust these cameras to almost pinpoint and make it shimmer and come out a little bit more. we knew that he was enhancing the narrative. it was great to be with him on that. tavis: i hear how he is using it to advance the craft for the
narrative. does working in 3d alter what you do is an actor? >> i think it does. tavis: in what way? >> the regular close up demands and the economy, it demands a stillness, its demands and accuracy, and it demands the truth. the thoughts behind your eyes. the 3d camera can see the thoughts in your brain before they have started to happen. tavis: [laughter] >> you have to be so perfectly in character, so on top of the game. you have three forces coming at you on the set. you have martin who demands a special version. you have the child actor who has no purpose, it is all from the
heart. it demands that you respond that way. then, you have the 3d cameras. it was a tight rope. you could never explain. you could never comment, you could never demonstrate. tavis: wind use it -- when you said that martin scorsese demands a certain things from you, what do you mean from that? >> i don't mean that he literally asked you for it but he is such a tender, intelligent, pure guy but you have no choice but to get out of the corner and offer him the truth. this is the work of every actor he has worked with. you always find that they have
given their best performance for marty. once marty -- i can call him marty, isn't that wonderful? once you have been given the role, you can relax and you don't have to audition any more. you don't have to demonstrate any more. you don't have to go after him with your actors begging bowl. he has seen everything. once he said action, you are free to be. you are not being tested, he is so secure in his craft and so confident in his craft that he knows that he can do it. he puts the chemistry together in such a great way that he knows the sparks will fly.
he just knows. that to me is very releasing and freeing, for me to be with marty. tavis: we all want to be appreciative for whatever it is we do or who we are. as kind as you have been about martin scorsese, he has gone on the record a few times saying that he desperately wanted to work with you. that happened for the first time on "shudder island" -- "shutter island." i ask this to know what it is like to have someone of this regard to want to work with you? >> very humbling. also as a storyteller, it
demonstrates a kind of kinship between he and i that i did not realize existed. this is not particularly visible. this was never discussed or demonstrated but this is like a tacit, silent pact that we have. we are both storytellers and we love telling the same kind of stories. where i find him most appealing is the combination that he has of total virility and talent. i find it very affecting. if you look at his work, what he has done is that he has put male virility on the screen in a very interesting way. "raging bull," "goodfellas,"
"shutter island," he shows the male ideal that is not exactly fit. >tavis: i have seen most everything he has done. identity is what i think about when i think about his work. i never thought about it in terms of male vulnerability. you ran through the list. you're absolutely right about that. >> to be asked to join that battalion of hon. males is very thrilling for me -- vulnerable
males is very thrilling for me. a lot of our male heroes are completely in a vulnerable -- invulnerable, in some cases completely fit. we are more complex than that. tavis: let's talk about your character more broadly in the project "hugo." >> my character was completely empowered by his craft and he was one of the first narrative film makers in the world right about 1906-1913. because of world war ii 1, having achieved the peak of magic, he was amazing. -- because of world war i,
having achieved the peak of magic. he was experimenting with 3d, motion capture, everything. then, the first world war came and suddenly nobody wants to see his films anymore. the social trauma was so great that he lost his audience almost overnight. then he went to sell his negatives to be sold down to make plastics for shoes, to burn all of his props, to allow his studios for collapse. we start off with his affirmation of life and magic and then to see all of that taken away from him was the resulting toys that you see in the toy shop. he did it so successfully.
he is a man dedicated to forgetting. to not being reminded of how beautiful life was. in life, if you are determined not to feel something any more, life will intervene and weight that whole set of nerves up -- wake that whole set of nerves up. that boy plays a reminder. he plays life saying, "come back, i will not let you drift away. i will not let you slowly commit suicide of the soul. i will bring you back to life." he is guided back to life by a child. that is a very ancient myth.
tavis: "and a child shall lead them." >> yes. tavis: i could listen to all night. you are welcome any time. it is impossible to imagine martin scorsese and sir ben kingsley in something that does not work. that is our show for tonight. thank you for watching. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a conversation with legendary hollywood filmmaker roger corman. that's next time. we will see you there. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know.
it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television]